CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa said it was a "great honor" to be included on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot and added that even though he wasn't elected Wednesday, "there is always a next time."
For the first time since 1996, the Baseball Writers' Association of America did not elect anyone into the Hall of Fame. Sosa, the former Cubs slugger who belted 609 home runs in his career, received 71 votes (12.5 percent).
A candidate must receive 75 percent of the vote from eligible BBWAA members to gain election to the Hall of Fame. Craig Biggio was the highest vote-getter in the results announced Wednesday, receiving 388 votes (68.2 percent). Former Cubs closer Lee Smith received 272 votes (47.8 percent).
"It has been a moment of great honor for me to have my name on the ballot for the first time along with some of the game's greats," Sosa said in a statement released Wednesday. "Even if we weren't inducted on our first time, we are still winners and there is always a next time. God has blessed me with a beautiful family, great career, and I know He will determine my future in the years to come. Baseball has been very, very good to me. Kiss to the heavens."
Sosa did receive enough votes to be included on next year's Hall of Fame ballot. This was the eighth time the BBWAA did not elect someone into Cooperstown since the voting began in 1936.
"There was just too much controversy, in my mind, and it hurt guys like Biggio," Hall of Famer Billy Williams said of the balloting. "[Biggio] had the numbers -- you talk about 3,000 hits."
The controversy revolved around players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. According to a New York Times story in June 2009, Sosa allegedly was among 104 Major League players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003. Sosa never was found guilty by an official MLB entity.
"I'm like everybody else -- you don't know enough about it," said Williams, 74, who was inducted into the Hall in 1987. "We, as outsiders, don't know. We can only look at the numbers they put up. I was just telling [my wife] Shirley, and remembering that they talked about the people who were on steroids [in the New York Times report], that there were 103 people. We don't know who was on that list. We don't know who the 103 were. There's not enough information to say 'yay' or 'nay.'"
Sosa posted impressive numbers in his 18 seasons. He is the only player in Major League history with three 60-homer seasons, hitting 66 in 1998, 64 in 2001 and 63 in 1999. He also won the National League Most Valuable Player honors in '98, leading the league in RBIs (158), runs scored (134) and total bases (416).
A seven-time All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger winner, Sosa won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1998 for his humanitarian efforts. He's the only player in NL history to have six consecutive seasons of 40 or more home runs. He is the Cubs' all-time home run leader (545), passing Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Williams and Ron Santo.
"I'm always happy that I could come to this country and get the opportunity to be who I am," Sosa told MLB.com in an interview in 2011. "I always appreciate what America did for my family. I never forget who took care of me in the tough moments I went through in my career.
"This is the land of dreams," he said. "The hope and accomplishments you can make here is incredible. America will always for me be No. 1."
Williams said he would not want any player who did take steroids to be elected to Cooperstown.
"If he took steroids to make himself a better ballplayer, he altered himself as a ballplayer by taking drugs like that," Williams said. "If he did this, and I was thinking to myself, if a guy did this on a Major League level and hit home runs, not only did he hurt the Major Leagues, but he hurt baseball. There's hitting and running and stealing bases that make you a baseball player, and that makes the game good.
"Eventually, some of these guys will go in [the Hall] when it dies down a little bit," Williams said. "I think there was too much controversy with this election. Look at Lee Smith. Here's a guy who was the all-time saves leader for a long time and he's getting 50, 55 [percent of the] votes every year. He led the league in saves for a long time."
The Hall of Fame does have several souvenirs from Sosa's career, including some of the bats he used to hit his monumental home runs, plus the jersey he wore when he hit his 400th.
However, the "Sammy Sosa Inspiration Field and Cubs Care Park," unveiled in September 2002 at the New City YMCA in Chicago, is gone -- it was demolished for a proposed retail complex -- and his No. 21 jersey has been handed out to Cubs players such as Jason Marquis, Milton Bradley, Tyler Colvin and Joe Mather.
Since his baseball career ended, Sosa has expanded his business interests and was involved with Riverhead Homes, which provides steel-framed houses designed to withstand natural disasters. Riverhead is attempting to develop a residential community in Jamaica and Haiti.
Last year, Sosa took another step in his effort to make a difference. He expanded his business interests and became chief executive officer of INJEX 21, a Miami-based company which has created a needle-free drug delivery system designed to help people afraid of needles who must subject themselves to daily self-injections, such as diabetics. His motivation to get involved was personal: Sosa worked at a hospital in the Dominican when he was young and remembers getting poked by used needles in the garbage. He also put off seeing a dentist because of his fear of needles. Dentists now can treat their patients and ease that fear by using the needle-free device.
That's his focus now.
Williams will be at the ceremony in Cooperstown on July 28. He doesn't expect the heated and lengthy debate over the Hall of Fame ballot next year because of the players who will be eligible.
"[Tom] Glavine and [Greg] Maddux will overshadow the steroid talk," Williams said. "You've got some great players coming up next year -- Frank Thomas, too. We'll see."